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Gitano – Rolando Villazón sings zarzuela arias
Rolando Villazón (tenor)
Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid/Plácido Domingo
rec. Teatro Albeniz, Madrid, 11, 14, 16, 18, 19 July 2006. DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 365474 2 8 [57:06]

A disc that should be heard by everyone with a taste for good singing

Pablo SOROZÁBAL (1897–1988)
La tabernera del puerto (1936): No puede ser[2:46]
Amadeu VIVES (1871–1932)

Doña Francisquita (1923): Por el humo se sabe dónde está el fuego [4:19]
José SERRANO (1873–1941)

La alegría del batallón (1909): Canción guajira [2:19]
Pablo LUNA (1879–1942)

La pícara molinera (1928): Pajarin, tú que vuelas [4:55]
Federico Morreno TORROBA (1891–1982)

Luisa Fernanda (1932): De este apacible rincón de Madrid [3:27]
Reveriano SOUTULLO (1880–1932) / Juan VERT (1890–1931)

El último romántico (1928): Bella enamorada [4:23]

La dolorosa (1930): La roca fria del Calvario [4:04]
Jacinto GUERRERO (1895–1951)

Los gavilanes (1923): Mi aldea [3:58]
El huésped del Sevillano (1926): Raquel [3:27]
Agustin Pérez SORIANO (1846–1907)

El guitarrico (1900): Suena guitarrico mio [4:02]

El trust de los tenorios (1910): Te quiero, morena [2:35]

La del manojo de rosas (1934): Madrileña bonita [2:53]
Reveriano SOUTULLO / Juan VERT
La del soto del Parral (1927): Y amis horas felices [5:10]
Federico Morreno TORROBA

Maravilla (1941): Amor, vida de mi vida [3:22]
José María CANO (b. 1959)

Luna (1998): Un gitano sin su honor [5:18]

When I reviewed the wonderful DVD of the outdoor concert, held in Berlin during the World Cup, with Anna Netrebko, Placido Domingo and Rolando Villazón, I saw a note about a forthcoming recital recording with Villazón, conducted by Domingo. Here it is. It was recorded in Madrid, little more than a week after the Berlin concert. I was deeply impressed by Villazón in Berlin, as I have been every time I have heard him. Hearing him here, without the visuals confirms even more strongly the likeness between his and the young Domingo’s voice. His easy production of the uppermost notes surpasses Domingo’s by a wide margin, the older singer never quite at ease with his high Cs. Everything else about him is so uncannily like Domingo. Prallels are to be found in the phrasing, the beauty of tone, the intensity and identification, the honeyed pianissimo, which – it has to be admitted – he is more willing to utilize than Domingo. In July 1987, nineteen years before the present disc, Domingo recorded, also in Madrid, a collection of Zarzuela arias, some of which Villazón also sings here. This disc has for long been one of my favourite Domingo recitals where he sings in his native Spanish and in repertoire that is really close to his heart. Both his parents were zarzuela artists and Domingo himself started his career in the same trade. Villazón has probably studied that disc and with Domingo conducting and always generous to younger colleagues he probably had many wise words to say on interpretative matters during the recording sessions. The Domingo disc will never be redundant, however many younger singers tackle this repertoire. The same goes for José Carreras’s zarzuela disc which also catches him at his very best: full-throated, involved and singing with such glow and such beauty that it feels even more tragic that he should ruin his wonderful voice in repertoire that was a size too big for him. The finest verdict I can deliver for Villazón is that his disc will rub shoulders with the two older tenors’ on many zarzuela lovers’ shelves.

A few stray remarks on some of the arias: Sorozábal’s No puede ser, a particular favourite with Domingo, which he also sang during the Berlin concert, at once establishes Villazón’s many positive qualities – the voice, the phrasing, the expression, the intensity. He excels in exquisite shadings in the aria from Vives’ Doña Francisquita (tr. 2), shows high spirits in the rhythmic Cancion guajira (tr. 3) and has a truly wonderful diminuendo in Pajarin, tú que vuelas (tr. 4). Guerrero’s Raquel (tr. 9) is the only aria that all three tenors sing on their respective recitals and Villazón is lighter, more lyrical than either of his colleagues. Serrano’s Te quiero, morena (tr. 11) has a peculiar charming lilt of its own and while the fourteen first tracks cover arias written between 1900 and 1941 it is good to have as the final track evidence that the genre is still alive and healthy in the shape of the atmospheric aria from José Maria Cano’s Luna, which was premiered as recently as 1998. It is a sad song and Villazón sings it with deep emotions without becoming lachrymose.

With Domingo conducting his Madrid forces one can rest assured that the accompaniments are as authentic sounding as possible and the sound is state-of-the-art. Musical consultant Miguel Roa and Jesús Villa Rojo have made some revisions to some of the scores and some of the arias are also transposed, the original keys intended for baritone voice. Zarzuela expert par excellence Christopher Webber has written the informative liner-notes and all in all this is a disc that should be heard by everyone with a taste for good singing. Those who have so far not discovered the many riches of the zarzuela, need feel no qualms about treading unknown territory: this is highly approachable, melodic, rhythmic and colourful music, in several cases with tunes that "stick" after the first or second hearing. The choice of composers also gives a fine general view of the genre. Most of all the disc confirms that in Rolando Villazón we have a worthy heir to the great tenors of the older generation.

Göran Forsling


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